3WRB Stereo974 closes its doors after 41 years broadcasting in Sunshine | radioinfo

3WRB Stereo974 closes its doors after 41 years broadcasting in Sunshine

Thursday 23 January, 2020

Melbourne community broadcaster 3WRB Stereo974 has shut down, citing a lack of available funding and support to continue operations.
Founded in 1978, the station operated in North Sunshine for two decades before moving to Geelong Rd, Brooklyn where it continued to broadcast until its went dark earlier this month, on January 16th.

The frequency may eventually be made available to other community broadcasters for temporary broadcasts.
Raymond Chow, Chinese language Broadcaster at Stereo974, says a general meeting of the station was told: “the radio station was under various financial constraints and a planned redevelopment of their radio station site meant they couldn’t survive the costs of a relocation “
Stereo 974 has been an important ethnic broadcaster with over 71 hours of ethnic programming each week and Mr Chow says there are concerns that Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities will be severely disadvantaged by the immediate closure of the station.
He says: “Community radio commenced in the ’70s and … Ethnic broadcasting became an important part of many community radio stations as numerous ethnic broadcasters provided thousands of hours of broadcasting around this nation in the mornings, evenings, every day or at weekends, so that the emerging migrant communities and the more established ones were kept informed about important issues in their own diverse languages.
“Stereo974 with its focused diverse ethnic broadcasting has provided an important service in broadcasting emergency information, council information and local activities to the CALD communities. Its death is a detrimental blow to the CALD communities in Melbourne.”
The federal government has supported multicultural broadcasting grants through the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF) and Mr Chow says, “a reform by CBF in grant allocation in 2017 to 2019 has led to a drastic drop of ethnic grants for many radio stations.
“Some radio stations with revenue heavily dependent on ethnic grant support had no way to find financial support from the business sector (and) very few mainstream businesses would be keen to target advertising at ethnic minorities.”
radioinfo has contacted the CBF for comment. CEO Ian Stanistreet says the level of CBF grant funding received by the station has changed over recent years, however fluctuations in the level of funding support received by a particular grantee are not uncommon in a competitive merit-based grant process.
Mr Stanistreet has told radioinfo: “In the current financial year to date almost $3.9 million has been paid or committed as grants in support of ethnic community broadcasting. Stations receiving ethnic funding support also have access to the general funding pool available to all eligible applicants.
“While the community radio sector is characterised by low resource levels, stations are largely self-funding principally through business sponsorship, fundraising, listener support and grants.  We join with others in thinking that it’s a great shame that the station was unable to continue in the face of a forced relocation and decline in key income sources.” See more in our related report here.

The ACMA has told radioinfo: "Western Radio Broadcasters Inc (the licensee of 97.4 MHz in the FM band in Melbourne West) has advised the ACMA that it has surrendered its community broadcasting licence.
"The ACMA will consider the future use of this spectrum. If we determine that it should be used for temporary community broadcasting services, those who have expressed an interest in using this or similar spectrum for community broadcasting will be informed of the temporary community broadcasting licence application process."


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Anthony The Koala
25 January 2020 - 11:43am
It is indeed sad that a radio station that has served the community of Sunshine and its surrounds should close. Where SBS may not be able to serve all members of a particular LOTE (language other than English) community, community radio has an important role to fill the gap. My opinion is not a criticism of 3WRB, but rather about the limited resources available to sustain a radio station. Note I don't have any knowledge of its financial operations. My opinion is based on the events depicted on the pages of this website.

Following the story at https://radioinfo.com.au/news/cbf-responds-closure-stereo974 and that the CBF has assessment criteria in order to hand limited resources applies to a station that is on air. The kinds of grants to broadcasters is available at https://cbf.org.au/grants/.

From Mr Chow's statement that the relocation costs as a result of the landlord wanting to redevelop the site was the threshold that put the radio station off air.

According to the CBF site, $2,981,314 was granted to 87 stations. That is on average, each station received approximately $34,268. Relocation costs may well have been greater than $34 268. It may have included searching for new premises, de-installation of equipment, moving and re-installing equipment and lease costs. I'm not privy to 3WRB's profit and loss statement.

Based on the kind of grants offered by the CBF, the the most likely grant available comes under the category of "Quick Response Grants" where the third point says that a grant may be granted where there are "unexpected changes at your studio or transmission site such as a sudden need to relocate" at https://cbf.org.au/grants/grants-available/.

However there are strict criteria, labelled under "Eligibility". Was the landlord's wish to redevelop the site unexpected and was there enough time for the board of the station to have been proactive in the process of relocation. In addition was there enough in the station's reserve and was there an ability of the station making a co-contribution with the granting facility such as the CBF and possibly negotiate a loan with repayment method?

I stress that it is based on the information on these surveyed pages. Keep in mind that if the relocation cost is greater than the average grant of $34,268, is there a limit that the CBF can grant.

What now for community broadcasting in the area covered by 3WRB?
Start from scratch. The various interest groups could come together for a meeting, setup a legal structure such as a incorporated association OR company limited by guarantee as suggested by the CBAA, https://www.cbaa.org.au/constitution-structure. The articles or memoranda of the entity could include the board structure, who's responsible for various duties as well as financial management provisions.

However, the ACMA has determined that the vacant frequency is now a temporary frequency. If the successful applicant to the temporary frequency cannot be converted to a permanent frequency, then the applicant has to do serious lobbying to the Federal Members of Parliament to have change/amend the legislation or regulation.

Learning from history, for example the history of 2RDJ, long before the station went to air, the board lobbied to change provision of the then "Broadcasting And Television" (Cth) to include the provision of a category C community radio station. If the legislation was able to be amended then, the legislation and its regulatory instruments can be amended now.

It's no use having Federal MPs lauding and praising the value of a community station then do nothing about it when a station is in distress only such that the successful applicant exists on a temporary licence.

Similarly, if we learn from 2RDJ's experience, for a nascent community radio station needing accommodation for its studios including offices and transmitter site, it was Burwood Council that provided a permanent home at the Woodstock Community Centre. It beckons the question of any support from the local government areas covered by 3WRB to provide permanent accommodation as in the case of 2RDJ.

Reference http://www.radio2rdj.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/The-History-Of-Radio-2RDJ.pdf

If a local government authority grants the station accommodation, the accommodation space may well be smaller than expected, but that's how all community radio stations' space started, small. One look no further than the history of 2WEB on the passing of May Watkins available on this website.

Starting from scratch: when the ACMA invites applications for a community C licence, such an application may involve submitting feasiblity and engineering studies including why the radio station needs to be established.

The "History-Of-Radio-2RDJ.pdf" does not mention the hard work of how many pages were involved in submitting the licence application, unless I stand corrected, the licence submission was over 80 hand-typed pages. There weren't word processors available.

Finally, a radio station depending on funding cannot exist on grants alone. The radio station may have to rely on more from the particular LOTE community groups it serves. This could include the station charging more per hour of studio air time and charging more for sponsorship announcements and other fund-raising activity by a particular LOTE group especially from LOTE businesses.

As a result, if there is lack of support from a particular LOTE community then that LOTE's group cannot go on air. At the time if a large proportion of the LOTE group's demography is of low income including those with a disibility, the station could put a case to the CBF under the "Development & Operations Grant"'s "building community - engaging the diverse members of your community".

It is indeed sad that 41 years of service to the community goes off air. The station's members may have to reform and start from scratch with the assistance Federal MPs, local government and a greater proportion of financial contribution from the LOTE groups,

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting Belfield
31 January 2020 - 8:54am
The sooner the better that Community Stations are allowed to get rid of tags to sponsorship announcements e.g. “Coca Cola station commercial sponsor," and just to let blocks of sponsorships flow like commercial radio stations. The presentation would sound far less awkward and irritating to listeners.
ACMA act like Goebbels in the tight reigned and tight fisted control of the obsolete 1992 Broadcasting Act. Because of the limitation and the proper use of the word commercials and allowable commercial time per hour (increase to 8 minutes, commercial radio being unlimited) is it any wonder that community stations go under, even with lucrative sausage sizzles on a Saturday Morning.
ACMA (the government arm of Broadcasting control) engages in an approved Restraint Of Trade. Community Radio Stations are severely limited in their revenue due to the inflexibiIity of the obsolete Broadcasting Act of 1992 an upheaval is over due.
The word “sponsorship” is poison to potential commercial sponsors of Community Radio Stations. The view by business is that sponsorships are viewed as charitable donations are with little value in return. They are right.
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